How to prepare for a Btec set task/controlled assessment

teenager making notes at laptop

If you’re taking a Btec, you’ll probably have to do set tasks alongside exams and coursework

Set tasks, sometimes referred to as controlled assessments, are one of the ways that Btec units are assessed.

They’re different from regular exams as they’ll probably be held under slightly different conditions: for example, you might be given a task in advance that you’ll be able to research ahead of the assessment, or you may be allowed to take materials into the test with you.

Exactly what happens in a set task will vary depending on the subject you’re taking, though, so we can’t tell you the specific details of how your set task will go – you’ll need to ask your teacher for advice on that.

What we can do is give you a bit of help with the kind of things it might be useful to think about beforehand, so you can make sure you’re as well prepared as possible.

You can also see what other Btec students are saying about their set tasks in our dedicated Btec forum

More like this: top tips for revising for Btecs

What’s the point of a set task?

Btecs are vocational qualifications – they’re meant to prepare you for the industry you want to work in. Set tasks are designed to test how well you’d handle the kind of real-world situations that are likely to crop up in these industries.

So if you were taking a Btec in Health and Social Care, for example, you might be asked how you’d plan a research study on arthritis, including any ethical issues to be considered, the sort of research methods you’d use and the objectives of your research.

student working at bedroom desk

What will happen before my set task?

You might be given material to research before you take your set task. Your teacher will be able to tell you if you’re going to be given anything like this. 

If you are given material to read ahead of the set task, for some subjects you’ll be able to do this research unsupervised and in your own time. For other subjects you might be given timetabled sessions to do your preparations.

In a Business Btec, for example, you could be asked to research the market for a specific product, then when you sit the set task, you’d have to use that research to write up a plan for a marketing campaign.

Should I take anything into my set task?

For some Btec set tasks, you’ll be able to take resources into the supervised test with you – this could include notes you’ve made from any research materials you were given in advance. Your teacher will be able to tell you if this is going to be the case.

Check if there are any rules around the number of pages, content and format of any notes you’re allowed to bring with you.

For some of the units in the Business Btec, for example, you may be given a brief ahead of the set task that you’ll be allowed to take notes on, which you can then take into the exam with you. In past papers, the notes have been limited to six sides of A4 and there are rules about the kind of stuff you can include – it will likely be limited to facts and figures, with no analysis or evaluations of research findings allowed.

student highlighting notes

What will I be allowed to use in the supervised section of a set task?

Some portions of your set task may be supervised while some, such as pre-task research, might be unsupervised.

If you’re taking the supervised portion of a set task, you won’t be allowed to check the internet, your emails or your mobile phone (unless the paper specifically says that this is allowed). You also won’t be able to talk to your classmates or ask your teacher for help.

What will I be able to use in the non-supervised section of a set task?

When it comes to non-supervised conditions, the main thing you’ll need to be careful about is making sure that you don’t plagiarise anything and that all the work you come up with is your own.

Beyond that, you’ll usually be allowed to use textbooks or the internet. You’ll probably also be able to ask your teacher for general advice unless the task instructions say otherwise. They can’t give you detailed feedback, though, or help you to meet specific criteria of the task.

close up of hand writing exam

Do I understand what skills I need to demonstrate in the set task?

You’ll find it much easier to do well in your set task if you have a good understanding of the kind of skills it wants you to demonstrate. For example, a set task for a Business Btec might want you to show research, time management, presentation, analytical and evaluation skills.

If you’re not confident that you’ve got a good grasp on the skills you’ll need to show, you should ask your teacher for a few pointers before you take the set task.

It’s also useful to make sure you know the definition of the commands that are likely to come up in your test. It might seem like this should be obvious, but you can get very similar-seeming commands asking for very different answers.

As an example, ‘describe’, ‘discuss’ and ‘explain’ are all asking you to do slightly different things – don’t risk losing out on marks just because of an easy misunderstanding of what the question is actually asking.

Where can I see past set tasks for my subject?

You’ll be able to find lots of information about your particular Btec on the Pearson website.

If you click through to your subject, then click on ‘specification and sample assessments’, you can read through past papers and specifications for each course.

Find more useful articles on our Btec hub, including advice on how to prepare for a Btec exam and top revision tips from Btec students

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